Count On This

Posted on March 7, 2017

Tomorrow is Wednesday. Babies will be born. People will die. Marriages will end. First crushes will crescendo. People will be hired. New stories will begin. Garbage bags will tear.

We will all feel different things.

As my Instagram feed has shifted, a result of each of us grabbing the reins of our own stories and sharing what we feel is appropriate, I am seeing bouquets of flowers because life is too short not to buy them, as often as I am seeing flowers because life was in fact too short. Mountainous swells of joy follow words that so succinctly portray heartache it doesn’t seem possible that they occupy the same realm.

I have no answers, but I do know one thing—I want to fight time less. Less judgment, less contempt, and more space for light. The other day I was in the car with Fin. The car was idling as we waited for something, though I can’t for the life of me remember what. She was bored, not cross, but definitely not as happy as she could have been.

I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and realized she’d begun to play with a bit of light. Her little fingers twitched and pointed as she made tiny shadow puppets from sunlight.

It occurs to me that we don’t have to have the answers or to be right, but we do need to remember how to let the light in, if not to see, then to keep us company as we pass the time.

 

 

 

 

Stunned Silent Watching Others’ Battles

Posted on February 18, 2017

A week ago we went to see the movie “Embrace—Your body, the movement, global change”. I watched the promotion of it with curiosity. It was strange for me to see a local connection to a deeply personal issue, one of the hosts was my neighbor, friends of mine were posting on Facebook that they would be attending.

I’m used to managing my demons in a private vacuum. I know there are women in my community who have battled with image and that there are abuse survivors, even closet liberals, but I’m more accustomed to finding connections on these issues through the relative safety and anonymity of the internet.

I suppose me talking about anonymity is strange as someone who has voluntarily shared great parts of my life over these last twelve years of writing online. Early on my writing did feel anonymous because no one locally read what I was writing; that has changed. I still have parts of my life that are kept for my family and me.

The themes in Embrace are deeply personal and intimate. I won’t lie, there were scenes that made me gasp audibly. Nudity, candor and a matter-of-factness to the way women’s bodies can be treated like cuts of meat to grade.

Skin       Stomach        Ass        Lips        Breasts       Vulva      Thighs

 

 

Thin women get judged for how they look, heavier women get criticized for liking themselves, older women are chastised for being sexual.

Get over it, go to the gym, eat a sandwich, cover up, dress your age.

One of the things I really valued was that Embrace wasn’t a dissection of the media making women feel bad, it was an honest depiction of various people’s lives. It does not lay blame as it portrays the different ways women feel about their bodies. It also acknowledges that men have complicated relationships with their bodies, but the focus here is on women.

I sat next to Fin, Briar was to her right, then Avery, and then Sean. We were in a booth, which felt safe. The theater was intimate and seeing faces we knew as well as people we didn’t was intense. I was proud and grateful that people in the community wanted to support this movie and participate in this conversation. As the scenes unfolded I heard weeping, I saw parents watching their children’s faces, and I saw heads nodding in agreement. At one point Finley squeezed my arm and pulled me toward her to whisper, “Mama, do you like your body?”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the answer. Separating years and years of not thinking I was doing enough—working out enough, eating right, moisturizing, grooming, you name it, it ran through my head.

“I’m not sure, but I am trying,” I answered. I felt her shift. I waited, then I said, “No, let me change my answer to I do. I do like my body.” She smiled and squeezed my arm, “I like it too.”

 

Finley asked me if I liked my body. A while later in the movie, Taryn Brumfitt said, “The purpose of your life is not to be an ornament.” I jotted both things down on the notepaper they provided.

I sat through the rest of the movie processing the idea of allowing myself to say that I like my body without qualification. It feels complicated to separate vanity, arrogance, shame, aspiration, and perception. 43 years in, I am so ready to shuck the cloak of not-good-enough. I’ve long since given up trying to understand when I put the damn thing on, I know it doesn’t suit me, nor does it help me. As much as I want to be the best parent that I can, it’s also not possible to do it for somebody else. I am trying, I think I’ll always be and that is ok.

I asked the girls after the movie how they felt. It was hard for them. We talked about Photoshop and peer pressure, and the feeling at school “that you have to do and want certain things by a certain age, but I don’t.”

 

I’m not sure if I expected the movie to be some sort of magic potion that would settle things once and for all. I know that I should be kinder in how I view myself, I want the girls to not pine for “skinnier legs” and “to be small like my classmates,” but those words have already been uttered, along with, “the more athletic kids get treated differently, like the teachers like them more.”

Whether we call it girl power or self-love, I hope that we work together to understand that there is a difference between wanting to improve and wanting to be something or someone else entirely.

 

 

A Game of Chicken with Weight

Posted on February 12, 2017

I have obsessed about weight. In college I abused laxatives. I’ve battled with disordered eating. I said hateful things to myself. I compared myself to women in magazine, classmates, strangers, and, quite possibly, people who didn’t even exist. The lengths I took to keep the bar of how I was supposed to look and what I should weigh just out of reach was staggering. I made it impossible to succeed.

As I raise three daughters I feel terror because of all the very real threats in the world, hating ourselves can be the most devastating. I watch them grow, their shapes changing constantly, and each new contour and curve makes me fall more intensely in love with who they are. They have never had a blemish, freckle, or roll that I have seen as anything short of magnificent, and yet that is still not a way that I can respond to changes in my own appearance.

I’ve largely quieted the voice in my head. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still in there, but she no longer possesses the mic around the clock. I don’t writhe to get out of my own skin like I once did. I donate clothes that don’t make me feel good, I move my body to remind myself of its strength, and I try to lean into the things that I used to hate. I work at loving myself.

I used to have no-touch zones on my body, worried that someone feeling my stomach would think it was too soft, I worried about the size of my butt, the width of my calves, I once came to think that my index fingers were hideously shaped. I had self-loathing super powers, but I couldn’t possibly tell you where they came from. I can’t blame my mom, I don’t remember a pivotal moment in time when I heard or saw something that specifically said I was the wrong shape. This is what terrifies me. How do I help the girls or is it simply inevitable that they will hate parts of themselves?

I want to believe we can do this. I let them see me. I tell them that sometimes we feel sad for no reason or that things can go bad, but that these are moments in time, not concrete definitions. We talk openly about changes, puberty, peer pressure. Tight skirts, skimpy tops, make-up or no make-up. I tell them that it is all ok. I don’t know if that’s enough.

Sisters conquering the mountain.

Taking Action

Today we are going to see Embrace—the documentary. It is one woman’s journey to understand why we apply so much pressure to ourselves and what is at the root of the relentless sense of being less than. I realize that there is a good chance we’ll be exposing the girls to sentiments that they haven’t entertained. They don’t look at each other’s body with envy; they very plainly understand that each of them has her own shape, speed, height, weight, you name it.

The comparisons I hear them make to classmates and celebrities has nothing to do with weight or beauty. Yet. I want to do this with them so that we can all be reminded of perception. I think sometimes we are more receptive to seeing the flaws in self-loathing logic when it isn’t our own voice. “Of course she shouldn’t feel like that” unless of course, the she is me. Right?

“Darling girl, don’t waste a single moment of your life being at war with your body, just embrace it.”

I want to work toward that, and so in a couple of hours, our entire family will go see the movie. I’m looking forward to hearing from the girls on the other side of it.

 

 

 

Learning to Balance Gratitude & Action

Posted on February 8, 2017

I have to remind myself that not everyone thinks like me. Do you have any quirks?

 

 

Here, I’ll start, I don’t like to step on or drive over the painted wheelchairs in parking spaces. I also cannot keep myself from turning tails-up pennies to heads up for the next superstitious/hopeful person. Sometimes I whisper thank you to green lights and when I pass people on the street I’ll think, “You once toddled across a floor to someone else’s profound delight. I hope you are still loved like that.”

 

I may seethe and say awful things sometimes, but mostly I think about good things. Trying to figure out how to manage the unpredictable flow of questions and commentary as a parent has become way more complicated for me since the election. There are times when I feel like I genuinely lack the air and spirit necessary to get to the end of an explanation of hate or indifference. I have no intention of giving up, but giving myself a spiritual head rest is critical.

 

The other day I stood outside and waited as a mix of snow and misty rain landed on my hair. It reminded me of the thing in middle school where we’d pretend to crack an egg on someone’s head and revel in the creepy sensation of hands acting as dripping eggs. That whole thing was a natural way to experience something outside of reality. No drugs, no lies, just touch and trust. I let myself feel the weight of the snow on my hair, the way it made certain strands thread together and press down on my temple. Droplets fell and landed on my eyelashes and cheeks. I smiled and listened as cars passed.

 

I was drawing a bath for Briar to soothe her sore back, we swished the Epsom salts in the water together and marveled at how strange it felt. We wondered aloud why it helped. I didn’t lament not understanding science or the human body, I just shrugged, smiled, and said, “I have no idea, but how cool, right?” She beamed back at me nodding.

 

Finley and I drove to Target the other day while her sisters were at dance class. She had a small purse clutched in her hand as we ventured to find a treat. We walked up and down the aisles for twenty-five minutes. After many stops and starts she looked at me, “I guess I don’t really ned anything.”

 

I ended up buying her a book that I thought we could read together (I’m a sucker for Mo Willems) . She devoured it. I melted listening to her pronounce the French words peppered throughout. She would stretch her mouth and raise her eyebrows and over-enunciate, “flaaan-eur” and I would catch myself holding my mouth open as she did.

 

I suppose in the end there are no recipes or easy how-tos on handling the need to be engaged politically and the desire to be sustained personally. For me, it’s been realizing that it is ok to shift gears as I need to because a huge part of my own political activism is deliberate participation in the lives of my girls and my own self-care.

 

What about you? How are you managing it all?

A Buzz in the Air

Posted on January 30, 2017

Resharing from Instagram because when we forget to share the good things out loud, sometimes I think we can also cheat ourselves out of feeling them.

I was running an errand a couple blocks from my office. I decided to walk because lately walks haven’t really been in the mix on account of my schedule and the weather. It was such a departure to move without hurrying. I got to the end of the sidewalk, looked up, and gasped. It was cold enough to see my breath and I was staring at a bee hive. I thought of reading Winnie the Pooh as a little girl, of my grandfather wanting to have his copy of the book near him as he was in hospice care, and of my girls and our discovery walks. I slowly crossed the street and then stared up at the hive. I felt small, but in a good way, like the world was so much larger than me and full of possibility and opportunity. One of the trickiest things of parenting may be not allowing the events of the day to swallow you whole.


I can’t stop looking up in wonder, I can’t give into hopelessness. There is honey to be had and honey to make, and honey to share.

Let’s be…

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